During our conversation the previous night Laurent said he had some more Christmas shopping to do the next morning, so we decided to meet in the afternoon. I planned on spending the morning at Les Puces de Paris -Saint-Ouen, a huge flea market in a less than savory suburb of Paris. Laurent was a bit apprehensive about my decision to go there, but it was the one thing I'd researched and planned several weeks prior to the trip.
I woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel, and then headed up on the metro. I actually got there quite early and many of the stalls hadn't opened yet, so I roamed about in circles as the stalls opened up. There was truly amazing furniture there, but as I wasn't in the market for anything heavy, I just admired it and walked on. After a couple of hours of roaming, I walked into this hole in the wall second hand clothing stall and ran smack dab into the most. awesome. Gucci shoes ever. They were 50€ and I managed to talk the woman down a whole 5€ *eyeroll*. Anyway, with my gorgeous shoes stowed safely away in a blue grocery store bag, I headed back to my hotel. My friend Laurent called me just then and I told him about my wicked awesome purchase, which he promptly suggested was a fake. Bastard. What do you think?
Anyway, back at the hotel I took a quick nap and then got ready for my first ever meeting with Laurent.
Laurent is my first and oldest internet friend. Sometimes circa 1999 I was sitting in my apartment in Toronto, planted in front of the computer and roaming the internet. You know, much like right now! Except for it being dial up. Anyway, my ICQ beeps and I get a message from someone named Laurent, from France. Those were still the days where I was scared of the internet stalkers and such, being utterly convinced that somehow if I answered people from Toronto, they'd find out who I was and show up knocking on my door, so I never used to answer messages from people I didn't know. For some reason, the fact that Laurent was overseas and probably would drown on the swim over, I answered. Now that I think back on it, I think he even started his message with a "Shalom", which made me think he was Israeli. We got to chatting and chatted for several hours over a few days. We soon switched to email as back in those (dark) days, you had to pay for the internet according to usage.
We've stayed in touch on and off over the past 6 years, updating each other with our lives and getting to know each other, so I was stupid excited about meeting him FINALLY.
At abour 3pm I got a call from downstairs and rushed down to the lobby. Yay! Laurent was so great! The little bugger would not let me snap his picture, so please take it on my authority that he is gorgeous and funny and clever and soft spoken and entirely lovely altogether. Isn't it nice when your internet friends don't turn out to be the freaks you anticipate?
Anyway, we hopped in his little car and drove off to Montmartre, which is a touristy part of town, home to the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur and Place du Tertre, as well as a rich artistic history. As soon as we got out of the car, Laurent turned to me and asked: "Are you a sporty girl?". After a few more steps the reason for his questions became clear. You have to climb about eleventy zillion steps to get up to the church.
Seeing as I was starving we stopped into a little restaurent at the bottom of the stairs. While we were waiting for my order (Laurent wasn't hungry) he whipped out a little metro map of Paris and started marking it up with all the places I needed to visit during my stay. I tucked into a nice steak and then we shared a chocolate fondant. At this point, a developing theme of making fun of my coffee consumption first reared its ugly head, as well.
Energized by the first lick of food since my early breakfast, we hit the stairs, which Laurent insisted I had to take two at a time. I'm sure I made some sort of comment to the tune of "bite me" at this point, but I don't recall my precise phrasing. We got to the top of the stairs (not that bad) and I was treated to this view (click the pictures for a larger view):
After walking around for a bit inside the church we stepped outside and headed towards Place du Tertre, which is filled with all sorts of souvenir shops, cafes, and "artists" who try to get you to pose for a picture and then charge a king's ransom for the hideous results. Look! We must have *just* missed Britney Spears sitting for her portrait! Such a pity, really.
We walked around the square, popping into shops here and there and then headed back to the car. We took the REALLY scenic route back to my hotel while Laurent pointed out all sorts of interesting sites as we drove by them. When we arrived back at the hotel he walked me to the door and we parted for the evening, having made plans to get together again on Tuesday evening.
I'm sort of skipping the real day 1, Friday, given that the only things that happened on it were flying, getting mildly lost, and sleeping. We start our adventure, therefore, on Saturday.
First, a little about where I was staying. I had a room booked at the Hotel du Marais, located at 2, bis Rue Commines, in the Marais section of town, which falls somewhere between the 3rd and 4th arrondisement. The Marais is a really lovely neighbourhood, with lovely buildings and shops. My room was essentially a glorified broom closet, but it was clean and comfortable, and given how little time I spent in it, I really wasn't all too bothered by its minute proportions.
On Saturday I left the hotel at about 9:00am and began looking for a place to have breakfast. I stopped at a small cafe named Florio, at the corner of Rue du Turenne and Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. The lovely looking waiter spoke "a leetle" (picture thumb and index finger closing in on each other, as it accompanied every "a leetle" that I would encounter henceforth) English and brought me my petit déjeuner, which included a baget (too hard), a coffee, an orange juice and holy batman, the most awesome buttery croissant I'd ever tasted.
I quickly ate my breakfast (8.50€) and headed towards the nearest store in which I could buy a scarf, for I had underestimated how cold I would be, in this case the BHV department store across from Hôtel de Ville. From there I headed over to the St. Paul metro station, to join the Le Marais walking tour offered by the Paris Walks tour company. There was a small crowd gathered around a lovely looking fellow just handing him money, so I assumed I was at the right place. After he'd taken our money he thanked us and told us our real guide would be coming around shortly, while he took the loot and went to the pub.
He was really quite funny (and well, kind of dreamy) and it was a great way to start the tour. After introducing himself as Jonathan, he stood us around in a circle and gave us a short history of Paris, in which I got to star as the great wall of Paris. He also treated us to a rather hilarious account of the public pay toilets spread throughout the city.
Here are some of the sites we saw (click on thumbnails for larger images).
During the tour I'd met a lovely Australian named Anita and we decided to go to lunch together afterwards. We popped into a place at Place de Vosges and Place de Bourgogne. We chatted amiably over lunch and decided to scoot over to the Musée d'Orsay. I should qualify this by saying that I'm really not a big fan of museums, but everyone told me this was the one place I had to go, so go I did. The museum is housed inside a turn of the century train station, and is really quite gorgeous. Anita kept acting like my sugar mommy and insisted on paying for my lunch, the museum entrance fee AND the audio guide. We started off looking around together, but soon drifted apart to look at the different displays, agreeing to meet up at the audio guide desk at closing. There were three particular things that really impressed me at the museum.
The first being the building itself, the second being the lovely furniture exhibit, and the third being an exhibit called Chruches: East or West?, which features images of churches done in a drafting style. It was just beautiful.
All in all, I was pleased to have picked this museum to fill me museum quota. I finished my roaming a little before Anita so while I waited for her I consulted my map, which told me that the Champs-Elysées were nearby, so when we walked out, we decided to go find them. We unfortunately turned right instead of left, and ended up walking the wrong way up the Tuileries, towards the Louvre. Undeterred, we turned around and marched along Rue Rivoli in the other direction. We stopped off for a hot chocolate at a cafe, at which point Anita said her goodbyes. She only had one more day in Paris and had to get some sleep so she could tackle it with full force.
Even though my legs were killing me by this point, I decided to keep going, and kept thinking I was going the wrong way, but there seemed to be a lot of people going in the same direction, so I just kept on trucking. I finally came upon the street, and wasted no time finding Sephora, where I quickly and efficiently dispensed with 147€.
In spite of being almost unable to put one foot in front of the other, I marched on to the end of the street to have a look at the Arc de Triomph, which is quite a formidable structure.
And with that, I decided to call it a night. I took the metro back to my hotel and was thrilled to discover a message waiting for me there from my friend Laurent. I called him up and we made plans to meet the following afternnon. Squee! I have so much to say about Laurent, but it'll have to wait for my next entry.
Here's a little something until I manage to get all my thoughts and pictures together to describe the week I just spent in Paris.
I've been living in this apartment for just under a year, and with my lease renewal coming up in the not too far future, it occurs to me that I'm full of ideas of what I'd like to do with the place, but rather weak on the execution. Hopefully by putting some of these ideas in writing, I'll get around to applying them. Over the next few entries I'll describe each room and then list what I'd like to get done.
My kitchen is mostly a mess. It's not tiny, per se, but it's not particularly well designed. It has a number of cabinets, but they're mostly high up and out of reach, so I don't bother using them. As a result, all of my pantry foods are stuffed into two small cabinets, and any time I go grocery shopping (which I grant you, is quite rare), I end up with stuff just sitting around on the counter. Between the two closets is an open shelf where all my dishes sit.
Half of my counter is taken up by a dish rack, and the other by my kettle and slow cooker.
I have an Ikea kitchen cart which could be quite useful, if not for the fact that its entire surface is taken up with my toaster oven, laundry detergent and (yet to be used) espresso maker. The bottom shelves have most of my pans and food containers, thrown about haphazardly.
Illy coffee apparently sells coffee to cafes in large aluminum containers, which I'd like to paint in enamel paint and then adorn with the lettering to make it look somewhat like the picture. I've been trying to find a place in the neighbourhood that sells Illy with no success, but I'm on a mission to procure the tins within the next couple of weeks.
None of these ideas will do much to solve my pantry storage problems, but I'll tackle that later. For the time being I'd just like to have a usable kitchen.